Many in the Bible trusted God’s promises, went through a preparation period, were humbled, and did or saw great things with the hand of God moving upon them and around them to protect them, use them, and bless them and others. Noah trusted in God, but He had to build the ark. Abram’s faith of believing God’s promises was counted unto him as righteousness. He was the recipient of a mighty covenant that we are still seeing fulfilled today, and it is through His people that the nations of the world are blessed. (Gen 15, 18:18, and 22) Yet, the story of Abram (later called Abraham) is that he was called to leave the security, honor, and inheritance of his earthly father, and he chose instead to receive the inheritance offered by our Heavenly Father. This was a huge step and act of faith that I believe is difficult for most of us to grasp in our civilization of today. Furthermore, Moses had to go before Pharaoh and stand against the leader of the world’s super power of the day, go before a holy, and at a time an angry, God in petition to save the rebellious people, and then lead these stiff-necked bunch of Israelites, including sojourners and others who joined with them, totaling in the hundreds of thousands of men and their families, through the desert. None of these jobs were for the weak of heart.
Each of the Bible personalities mentioned had acts of preparation and humility that were present before God’s mighty hand was evident. We see this in the story of Esther and of Ruth also and other women of the bible, too. The apostle Paul was blinded for a time and certainly neither accepted by the Pharisees after his encounter with Jesus nor initially fully trusted by most of the followers of Jesus either. These “greats of the Bible” had to take action, like we, as survival-minded individuals must prepare for hardship that we see coming, but they also had to have faith and listen for individual instruction. If their eyes and ears were not tuned into God but were overemphasizing and focusing their gaze upon the distractions– problems, issues of the day, and so forth– to the point that they could not draw near to God, they could not obey His voice or feel His peace or find security. These are the people who did not survive. We read in the Bible about the Jews fleeing into the hills ahead of the destruction of the temple. This was because they had been warned by God to do so. They had been “marked” as belonging to God and were protected.
I’m still hearing today how God is doing supernatural works among those who trust in Him. People are healed, miracles are performed, and there are daily stories, just those coming out of Israel, that are of biblical proportion. I hear how knives bent like a rubber banana as a terrorist attempted to thrust it into the neck of an Israeli. Thousands of rockets are launched and relatively few are killed or wounded there. A coin put in a pocket for donation to charity stopped an assassin’s bullet that was accurately aimed at the heart. We have also heard stories of cannibals seeing bright giants with swords standing between them and Christian missionaries in the jungle. I, personally, have had a life-threatening experience that I can only explain as God’s intervention, because medically there is no other explanation. First, the police did not expect anyone in the car to be alive and didn’t even come right away to check on our vehicle, as “no one could survive it”. Then, the doctors could not understand how I lived, but I know the one who holds life in His hands and I’m here to tell you that you can too.
Do not focus your eyes on vain things. You must watch what is happening and see the economics, the threats of Islam, the weakness of our grid, and so forth, but your focus, your passion, and your heart must be first for God and then for your husband and family above anything else. When your priorities are correct and you are obeying God’s word, then you need not fear. Walking near the LORD, you hear His whispers and know what to do. You will know when the enemies come. You will know who is a threat. Ladies, we are naturally more emotional beings. There may be some who are frightening, but there should be none who earn your respect or have your eyes fixed upon them other than God and, secondly, your husband.
When the people of Israel had found no fault in the prophet Samuel, he spoke to them saying,
It is the Lord that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord of all the righteous acts of the Lord, which he did to you and to your fathers. When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgat the Lord their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe. And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your king. Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you. If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God: but if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers.
Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.
And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:6-25 emphasis added)
“…consider how great things he hath done for you.” This is worthy to repeat. We should remember the joy of our salvation and the blessings of God in our lives. We should put up reminders of God’s power and promises to help strengthen the peace and confidence in the Lord. We should read our Bible, which is filled with messages of instruction, examples of our God’s justice, righteousness, mercy, grace, love, power, and strength. Just as a young child crawls up into her strong father’s arms and feels secure, we should feel secure in the shadow of the wings of God (Psalm 36:7). We can only be in His shadow if we are close to Him. So, have a healthy respect for the One who has the power to create with His mere words, yet remember that He desires relationship and readily receives a repentant and contrite heart (Psalm 34:18 and Isaiah 57:15).
Let’s talk about a reminder of our relationship to our Savior. It is also yummy to eat and nourishing not only for the body but for the spirit. I make Challah (pronounced “Ha-la”) Bread, almost every week. (I’ll post the recipe at the end of the article.) In making this, it is a physical representation of something spiritual. Ladies, we are emotional beings and we respond to things that trigger our memories of fond thoughts and events. We tend to place pictures, arts, flowers, sweet sayings, and such in our homes, on the walls, on tables, and on our mirrors because they make us happy and remind us of what is important– people, times, places, events, and also attitudes. However, with all of these things, especially those that are representations of spiritual truth, it is important that we not fixate on the physical and forget the spiritual. This bread is so good to eat and beautiful, but it is of paramount importance that we not loose the significance of God’s provision and forget to give Him the praise that He is due for everything we enjoy. Through the picture of this beautiful braided bread, sprinkled with salt and sesame seeds, sitting in my bread basket I am reminded of God’s physical, spiritual, and emotional provisions in my life, and I am encouraged. I cannot experience a scary fear when my heart, mind, and spirit are fully focused upon the Lord and giving Him due praise; I only experience a reverent fear in the same way a little child respects the strong (though sometimes disciplining) father she knows loves, protects, and cherishes her.
The first reminder of the spiritual comes from the overall theme of bread. Jesus is the “bread of God” and the “bread of life”, according to John chapter 6. Jesus also says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 So, in this, all bread, and not just hallah, is a reminder God’s Word– instruction for abundant living provided in the Bible and especially through Jesus, who said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
So, as we look at our braided challah bread, we think of the bread of life that sustains us and we give thanks for Jesus and His provision for giving us wheat from the earth to also sustain our bodies while giving us truth from His Word to sustain our minds and spirits.
The challah bread is braided, traditionally in three stands but sometimes six or other numbers of braids. We read in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” and are reminded that we, who are in Christ Jesus, are never alone. The Son and His Holy Spirit petition on our behalf to the Father, just as our prayers are sweet aromas also. When we as believers come together, we know we are strengthened to hear the testimonies of one another. Jesus prayed to the Father, in John 17, before He went to the cross: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” Some also point out that God presents Himself to His people as the Father, Son, and Spirit– three in one.
The mounds on the bread, created by the braids, look like mountains, and we read much in the Bible about mountains as a place of sacrifice, prayer, and place to meet God. Before the tabernacle and temples were built and became the only acceptable place for God’s altar for sacrifice, altars to God were sometimes built on the mountains. Those sacrifices were sometimes covenant and thanksgiving sacrifices, though some were sin offerings, where the animal substituted for what the human deserved in his sin against a righteous God. We remember that we, in our hearts, are to sacrifice our selfishness before God and take on His will and desires for our own. We, too, as wives, are to prefer our husbands over ourselves. In this, we honor not only our husbands but also God (I Peter 3).
Salt physically, in reality, suppresses the taste of bitterness. Like salt, we need to emotionally and spiritually guard against and be peace makers in respect to feelings of bitterness, harbored resentment, and harsh tongues. Salt is also a purifier and healing agent. In general, the salt on the bread is representative of us as believers, because Jesus said: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:12-14) Furthermore, in Mark 9:50, Jesus instructed “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” Then, Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” So, let the salt remind us to not have bitterness toward one another and that in our speech and life, we may be a witness as the “light of the world” and “a city that is set on a hill.”
The seeds (sesame or poppy) that I use on top of the bread remind us of the sheep of His flock– us! We are reminded that we are His sheep and to survive we must listen to our Shepherd. When the wolves come or the cliff is ahead, our Shepherd will protect and guide us to safe pastures. Even, when this body is done, we will go to His Kingdom and have peace with Him for eternity.
So, shall we let fear paralyze us and become the focus of our attention? Shall we push aside Biblical truth in an effort to push for answers about our nation’s elections or economic solutions? My answer is a resounding, “No!” We will continue to seek the best answers we can find for the practical issues we face, but our highest focus and desire of our heart should obedience to the Good Shepherd who will lead us to safe pastures and, if we are married, to serve and trust the protector, leader, and head of our own household– our husband.
I encourage you to make the challah bread recipe below and be reminded of God’s great provision for you through His Son, His Word, His physical provision in what grows from the earth, and remember that you are His Sheep, He is your Shepherd, and He has given you another shepherd in your home, if you are married, who is instructed to look after you, protect, and provide for you, and make sacrifice of himself for you. Surely, your God and your husband deserve your respect, your diligent efforts, and the focus of your attention above any anxious fear that you might be feeling. There is a beautiful old song that goes “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Be happy. Trust and obey! Focus on this as you go about your gardening, target shooting, sewing, and homesteading activities…in peace and joy!
Challah Bread Recipe, by Sarah Latimer
- 4 tsp dry yeast
- 1 1/4 c warm water, divided (approximately bath temperature or 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 3 generous Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 c bread flour or very finely, freshly ground whole wheat flour (I usually use 3 cups of powder-fine, freshly ground whole wheat flour plus 1 1/4 cups of bread flour, but it’s okay to just use bread flour.)
- 1 egg yolk, beaten, plus 1 Tbsp water
- Kosher salt (optional)
- Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds (optional)
- Combine the yeast, honey, and approximately 1/2 cup of the warm water in your mixer’s bowl; allow to stand 10-15 minutes while the yeast activates and you measure and mix the other ingredients.
- Generously oil the bottom and sides of a very large glass bowl with extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the remaining water, oil, and 3 egg yolks; mix together with a whisk.
- In a separate bowl, combine 4 1/4 cups of flour(s) and salt; stir together.
- Before turning the mixer on (or mixing by hand), add layers of a small amount of the water/oil mixture and a small amount of the flour mixture to the yeast water with repeated layering until all have been added to the mixer bowl.
- Once all of the ingredients have been added, turn the machine on low speed (or mix by hand); dough will form a ball. Scrape down sides if necessary while ingredients are combining. If dough is well mixed but sticks to the bottom of the bowl, stop mixer and add 1/4 cup of flour, and then turn the mixer back on and let it run again for several minutes to combine well and see if this time the dough will form a ball and lift out of the bowl easily. If not, add a few more tablespoons of flour and mix thoroughly again, until the dough can be handled. It shouldn’t be very sticky at all.
- Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn the dough over so that the dough is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, dry cloth and place it in a warm (not hot; must be less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit) place to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough. The dough can be punched down and allowed to rise two or three times until you are ready to shape it.
- This recipe makes two or three large loaves or four small loaves. A kitchen scale is handy for weighing the dough to get each loaf about the same size. (I usually make three loaves, which each provide about eight servings.) Once ready to shape, remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured kneading/work board. Cut dough, evenly, into the number of loaves you are making–either two, three, or four portions.
- Take one portion of dough and cut that portion into the appropriate number of braid portions (usually three) and role the braids like a rope about 1” in diameter.
- Press the ends of the rope pieces together and loosely braid/shape the loaves as desired. Tuck the end underneath.
- Repeat the rolling of rope pieces and braiding with the remaining loaf dough portions.
- Place braided/shaped loaves on parchment paper-lined baking sheet(s) (or lightly greased baking sheet).
- Gently, use a basting/pastry brush to brush tops and sides of dough portions with the egg yolk-water wash.
- Sprinkle with kosher (flaked, non-iodized) salt and/or your choice of seeds.
- Cover the dough lightly with parchment paper, and let it rise again until it doubles in size (about an hour).
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake for 16-25 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves and your oven. It takes some practice to tell when the bread is done, but usually the top and the bottom are a light gold color.
Serve warm and pull apart, as in “breaking bread together” with clean hands, while praising the LORD who has provided this for you.